History of Stanford

The New Century

After Leland Stanford’s death in 1893, the university entered a period of financial and legal uncertainties resulting from federal challenges to his estate. During that time, Jane Stanford took over the responsibility of ensuring that the new university would prosper.

The estate was released from probate in 1898 and the following year, after selling her railroad holdings, Jane Stanford turned over $11 million to the university trustees. What President Jordan termed "six pretty long years" had come to a close. During that time, he said, "the future of a university hung by a single thread, the love of a good woman.”

Jane died in 1905, after having relinquished to the university trustees control over the university’s affairs and having supervised construction of the buildings she and her husband had envisioned, including the magnificent Memorial Church.

Early on the morning of April 18, 1906, a violent earthquake wrecked many of the new buildings and killed two people on campus. Some of the structures were never rebuilt; others, like the church, rose again. Graduation was postponed until September, but by then there was no doubt that Stanford’s entrepreneurial spirit would carry it through whatever obstacles lay ahead. (More about Stanford and the 1906 Earthquake.)

In the following years, Stanford opened professional schools of medicine, business, engineering, education and law. The university lost more than 70 men and women in World War I. In its aftermath, Herbert Hoover, a graduate of Stanford's pioneer class who by then was working in war relief, donated materials and money to establish a collection of documents on war and peace. That collection would eventually become the Hoover Institution. In 1928, Hoover was elected president of the United States.

In 1934, alumni volunteers formed "Stanford Associates" to raise money for the university and ensure the development of its programs and facilities. From then on, Stanford alumni would play a key role in maintaining the university’s expansion and improvement.